Summer Safety: Grilling, Fireworks, Bug bites and Poison Ivy
In this Fox 8 House Call series, Cone Health experts explore summer safety, including:
Grilling and Food Safety
Summertime is the perfect time to start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet or to try out new, healthy recipes on the grill. Grilling protein and vegetables is an excellent way to make your meals leaner and healthier and, if you want to get adventurous, you can even grill some fruit. When it comes to grilling vegetables and fruit, corn is a staple, but there are plenty of other options to try, including:
If you’re planning a cookout with friends, it’s also important to practice safe food handling. Any time you’ll be handling raw meat, you need to make sure that you use different plates, utensils and cutting boards after cooking, and that you wash your hands after handling it. If you plan to set up the food outside, pay attention to how long it is out in the heat. The danger zone for foodborne illness, when bacteria is most likely to grow, is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Food should be left out no more than two hours between those temperatures. Older adults, children, those who are pregnant and anyone with a compromised immune system are at higher risk of foodborne illness and should be extra cautious. To minimize the risk, keep cold food refrigerated and warm foods hot until they are served, then store all the leftovers in the fridge. You can also try to keep foods cool outside by placing a bowl of ice under the bowl the food is in, or by freezing the bowl beforehand to help keep it cool longer.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are chemicals that are formed when meat is cooked at a high temperature or over an open flame. There are no current federal guidelines that address the consumption of foods that contain HCAs, but some studies have suggested that a high consumption of them may increase a person’s cancer risk. To help minimize the number of HCAs in meat:
- Avoid direct exposure to flame.
- Pre-boil meat so it cooks for a shorter time on the grill.
- Use a marinade.
- Continuously turn meat while it cooks.
- Remove any charred portions of meat before eating.
Laura Jobe is a registered dietitian with Cone Health Nutrition and Diabetes Education Services.
Fireworks are a staple of any Fourth of July, but they also cause an average of almost 18,500 reported fires per year. It is also estimated that 11,100 injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2016 were caused by fireworks. The best way to ensure your family’s safety and avoid burn injuries this Fourth of July is to not use any fireworks at home. Instead, go enjoy the public fireworks display put on by professionals. Even sparklers, which are commonly thought of as harmless, burn between 1,200 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and account for one-fourth of emergency room visits due to fireworks. Glow sticks can be a fun alternative to sparklers and they can last all night.
Although it is strongly discouraged, if you do plan on using fireworks at home or at a Fourth of July gathering this year, it is extremely important to keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Make sure the fireworks you are using are legal in your area.
- Always closely supervise children around fireworks.
- Do not wear loose clothing while using fireworks.
- Never light fireworks indoors or near dry grass.
- Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush, leaves and flammable substances.
- Have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Stand several feet away from lit fireworks. If a device does not go off, do not stand over it to investigate it. Put it out with water and dispose of it.
Anything that explodes or is projected into the air is illegal in North Carolina. Legal fireworks include snake and glow worms, smoke devices, noisemakers (snappers and string poppers) and sparklers.
If an injury does occur, call 911 immediately. In the case of an eye injury, don’t touch or rub the eye as this can cause even more damage.
Leigha Jordan is the injury prevention coordinator for the trauma department at Cone Health.
Poison Ivy, Ticks and Other Summer Concerns
Warm summer weather often leads to an increase in outdoor activity and exposure to things such as poison ivy, poison oak and bug bites. The majority of Americans are allergic to poison ivy and oak, but contrary to popular belief, it does not spread by scratching. The oil, which causes the allergic reaction to poison ivy, can stick to clothes and even pet fur. If you do come into contact with poison ivy or oak, it’s important to wash the area with soap and water. However, there are things we can do to prevent it coming into contact with our skin, such as:
- Knowing how to identify the plants. Poison ivy and oak have a cluster of three leaves at the end of a stem and flowers that sprout where two branches meet. Hairy vines that you often see growing up the side of trees are also poison ivy.
- Wearing gloves, long sleeves and pants if you are working outside and washing them immediately after use.
The average duration of the rash from poison ivy or oak is between one to three weeks. If a rash from poison ivy or oak lasts more than three weeks, it’s time to talk your doctor.
Bug bites can also be quite the nuisance, and in some cases, quite dangerous. Tick bites, in particular, can cause serious health conditions, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. To prevent tick bites, wear long sleeves, light-colored fabrics, a hat and remember to use bug repellant when spending time outdoors. If you find a tick, gently grab the head of the tick with tweezers and pull it away from your skin, then wash the area with soap and water. Make a note of what size the tick was, as it can indicate how long they have been there. If you begin experiencing high fever, achiness, a rash, fatigue and/or a headache within a month of a tick bite, you need to seek medical attention.
When you spend a lot of time outdoors, using sunscreen to protect your skin is imperative. Apply a minimum of SPF 30 at least every two hours while outdoors. If you do get a sunburn, you can use aloe vera gel to sooth the skin.
In most cases, bug bites and poison ivy or oak rashes can be treated at home using cold compresses and/or hydrocortisone cream to help with the itching. If your symptoms persist, or you develop a fever or a new rash, contact your primary care physician right away.
Kate Clark is a nurse practitioner for LeBauer HealthCare at Stoney Creek and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.